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Charismatic vs. Inspirational Leadership Report

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2019


Leadership is one of the most important management functions in every organization. An organization can only run successfully if it is piloted or led by a skillful, as well as, an influential leader. A good leader inspires and motivates his followers. Additionally, the leader is expected to structure the organization in a manner that facilitates goal achievement.

Thus, leadership can be defined as, “the process of social influence in which, one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. Leadership can be conceptualized as a process in which an individual (leader) influences others to achieve an objective and guides the organization in a manner that promotes cohesion.

In this context, the main role of the leader is to influence a group of people such as employees of an organization to achieve a shared or a common goal. Leaders play their role by applying specific leadership skills and knowledge.

Additionally, the effectiveness of the leadership process is determined by the traits of the leader such as beliefs, values and character. Leadership is characterized by four factors namely, the leader, followers, communication and situations. The leader is the person entrusted with the task of leading others. A successful leader must prove to his followers that he deserves to be followed.

The followers are the group of individuals being led through inspiration, motivation and supervision. Communication helps the leader to build a relationship with his or her followers. In most cases, leaders use a two-way communication approach to express their views and obtain feedback from their followers. Leaders often perform their duties in different situations.

Each situation requires a unique leadership style and course of action. Thus, the leader must be able to adapt his leadership style to the situation at hand. Leaders influence their followers in three ways. First, they exert influence by establishing goals, as well as, performance standards. An organization is likely to be successful if its leader is able to set high but achievable standards and goals.

Second, leaders influence others by establishing values in the organization. Values refer to the organizations’ concern for its stakeholders such as customers, investors and employees. Thus, the values guide the operations of the organization.

Finally, leaders influence their followers by establishing business and people concepts. In this context, concepts refer to the products the organization intends to offer and the methods it intend to use to offer its products. Great leadership can be achieved if the leader is able to challenge the process. This means that the leader should be able to identify an aspect of the organization that needs to be improved.

Having indentified what is to be improved, the leader should be able to share his vision with the followers on how the improvements should be accomplished. Once a shared vision is created, the leader should provide his followers with the tools needed to solve the problem. The leader should also help the followers to solve the problem, especially, when difficulties arise.

Upon achieving the desired results, a good leader should share the glory with his followers. In general, good leadership is reflected in the leadership style adopted by the leader. This paper focuses on two leadership styles namely inspirational and charismatic leadership. The similarities and differences of these leadership styles will be discussed.

Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership is “a leadership style based on the leader’s ability to communicate and behave in ways that reach followers on a basic, emotional way, to inspire and motivate”. Charismatic leaders provide an environment full of energy, as well as, positive reinforcement. They inspire their followers and encourage them to do their best in everything.

Charismatic leaders use dint of personality, as well as, charm rather than external authority to gather followers. They also give their followers or team members a lot of attention. Additionally, charismatic leaders are able to understand the moods and anxieties of their followers both at personal and at group level. Research indicates that charismatic leaders use a variety of methods to manage their image.

Leaders who are not naturally charismatic often perfect their leadership through training. In most cases, charismatic leaders win the trust of their followers by taking personal risks, as well as, self-sacrifice. A typical charismatic leader is often persuasive and shows confidence in his followers. Such leaders often focus on building a strong team that is distinct from others.

They ensure the followers view the group as being superior to others. Additionally, the group’s image is associated with the charismatic leader. Thus, any person joining the group not only identifies with the group, but also the leader.

Assumptions of Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership is based on three basic assumptions which can be explained as follows. First, it is based on the assumption that charm and grace are the most important qualities needed in order to gather followers. Thus, every aspiring charismatic leader must have these qualities. Second, self-belief is an integral attribute of leaders. A charismatic leader should be confident and believe in his leadership abilities.

Finally, individuals are followed by those who admire them. This assumption implies that charismatic leaders must be admired by their followers. Consequently, he or she must inspire and establish a positive rapport with the followers in order to be admired.

Characteristics of Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership is associated with four distinct characteristics which include the following. First, the leaders are seen as individuals with supernatural powers, as well as, abilities. The followers consider the leader to be a hero and respect him due to his perceived and actual abilities. Second, leaders are followed due to the charisma they exhibit, as well as, personal trust.

The leader must be trusted for him to gather followers. Third, followers are transformed into leaders if they are able to demonstrate charisma. In the context of an organization, the followers will be promoted to leadership positions if they are able to exhibit charisma.

Finally, charismatic leadership does not involve formal offices of authority. Power is mainly gained through social skills rather than external sources such as the authority associated with the position of the leader. Hence the leader has to develop social skills such as effective communication in order to inspire and win the trust of the followers. This enables him to gain power over the followers.

Characteristics of the Leader

People who are considered to be charismatic leaders usually demonstrate certain characteristics that their followers identify with. Such characteristics enable the leaders to gain respect from their followers. Additionally, they enable the leaders to obtain support for their visions, as well as, beliefs.

Empirical studies on leadership reveal that both good and bad leaders can be charismatic. This is because even bad leaders can have the ability to convince their followers that their beliefs and visions are right. The specific characteristics associated with charismatic leaders include the following.

To begin with, charismatic leaders demonstrate high levels of self-confidence, as well as, self assurance. Charismatic leaders often show high levels of maturity in everything they do.

True charisma “is a measure of a person’s maturity and character”. Charismatic leaders take cognizance of the fact that leadership is not all about showmanship. They do belief that effective leadership is achieved through application of wisdom acquired over time.

Most charismatic leaders begin their careers by learning from their seniors. After some months or years, they gain the knowledge or wisdom and skills required to effectively lead others.

Such knowledge gives charismatic leaders the confidence they need to handle most of the leadership challenges they face. Due to their self-confidence, charismatic leaders tend to be risk lovers. They are able and willing to take risks in order to achieve their goals.

Charismatic leaders need social power to lead their followers. However, they need low authoritarianism to succeed as leaders. Power is the “ability of a person to exert influence over the behavior of others with or without resistance”. Charismatic leaders prefer to influence others without resistance.

This explains why charismatic leaders focus on winning the support of their followers and creating a common vision before implementing any strategy. Authoritarianism is a leadership concept in which the followers blindly submit to authority.

Power is centralized and maintained through repression, as well as, exclusion of followers, especially, those who are likely to challenge the leader. Since charismatic leaders have great concern for their followers, they can not succeed by focusing on high levels of authoritarianism.

Charismatic leaders are associated with expert power. They earn the respect and trust of their followers by applying exceptional skills and knowledge to solve particular problems. For example, a marketing manager can gain expert power if he or she is able to formulate marketing strategies that facilitate achievement of the company’s sales targets.

Individuals tend to accept the opinions and recommendations of persons with highly regarded expertise. In leadership, expert power enables the leader to win the trust of his followers. A charismatic leader is trusted by his followers due to his actual and perceived expertise in solving problems.

Charismatic leaders are also associated with referent power. Referent power refers “to the ability of a leader to influence a follower because of the follower’s loyalty, respect, friendship, admiration, affection or a desire to gain approval”. Referent power is based on the extent to which the followers admire, identify with and respect the leader.

Referent power can only be gained if the leader has effective interpersonal skills that he uses to establish strong relationships with his followers. Charismatic leaders need referent power since charismatic leadership is based on influence instead of command and control. Referent power is gained when the leader has qualities that followers admire and wish to posses.

Consequently, the followers tend to identify with the leader and even try to copy him. However, the leader might not have referent power over each and every follower. This is because referent power is based on how the followers view the capabilities and personality of the leader.

Charismatic leaders have good communication, as well as, rhetorical skills. Charismatic leaders need communication skills in order to motivate followers during difficult times. Such communication skills are also needed to convince the followers to stay focused during good times.

Charismatic leaders are not only skillful in one-on-one communication, but also in communication at group level. Additionally, they are able to explain technical details in a language that can be easily understood by all followers. Successful charismatic leaders normally empower their followers by coaching them to develop inspirational, as well as, excellent communication skills.

Finally, charismatic leaders are assertive, dynamic and outgoing. They are full of energy and often encourage others to move on despite the challenges facing them. They are also able to listen carefully and show concern for their followers. This facilitates the loyalty that is needed to ensure cohesion and unity among followers. Charismatic leaders often mean what they say.

Thus, their words are usually reflected in their actions. Assertiveness enables charismatic leaders to convince their followers to support their vision or opinion. Additionally, it enables the leaders to effectively explain the course of actions they prefer to take when solving a particular problem.

Characteristics of Followers

Followers of charismatic leaders share some common characteristics. Such characteristics include the following. Those who follow a charismatic leader usually identify with and admire their leader. The followers trust and identify with the leader’s beliefs. This is because the leader is considered an expert who is able to offer effective solutions or advice.

Followers of charismatic leaders often exhibit heightened emotional levels. The followers tend to be emotionally attached to the leader and the leadership process. Most followers normally consider charismatic leaders to be heroes who they can not do without. The other characteristic of the followers of charismatic leaders is the willingness to be subordinates.

Charismatic leadership is not based on coercion, but on the ability to convince the followers to voluntarily follow the leader. Since charismatic leaders are trusted and admired, their followers are often willing to follow them without questions. This explains why charismatic leaders’ opinions are often accepted without much comment or thought.

Finally, followers of charismatic leaders are associated with a feeling of empowerment. Charismatic leaders always show concern for their followers. Additionally, charismatic leaders encourage their followers to move on even in difficult times. This results into high morale and a feeling of empowerment among the followers.

Situations that facilitate Charismatic Leadership

Studies on leadership have showed that charismatic leaders emerge when a situation arises. Some of the situations that can lead to the emergence of a charismatic leader include a social crisis, task interdependence in an organization, as well as, the need for innovation. Additionally, charismatic leadership is facilitated by an environment that is receptive to change.

Cultural charismatic leaders usually emerge when the society is facing the danger of losing its values, traditions and norms. In such circumstance, the leaders enhance learning and implementation of new actions that restores the society to its former state.

In the context of an organization, a financial crisis can facilitate charismatic leadership. In this case, the CEO, for instance, becomes a charismatic leader if he is able to use his charismatic skills to improve the performance of the organization.

Strengths of Charismatic Leadership

Scholars agree that organizations that are run by charismatic leaders often report good performance. This is because charisma acts as the catalyst that transforms average leaders into great or better ones. A charismatic leader not only posses the skills and knowledge acquired in school, but also posses unique interpersonal skills that are necessary to inspire change and growth in an organization.

Consequently, charismatic leadership is likely to promote high performance. As stated earlier, charismatic leaders show concern for their followers and take their concerns into account when making decisions. Additionally, charismatic leaders focus on teamwork and pursuit of a shared objective. Hence, they are able to promote unity and cohesion in an organization.

Finally, charismatic leaders intellectually stimulate their followers by seeking their opinion on various issues before making a decision. They also empower their followers by motivating them to do their best in everything. Hence, charismatic leadership creates followers or subordinates who will ultimately be able to lead themselves.

Weaknesses of Charismatic Leadership

Despite the fact that a person needs charisma in order to become a better or a great leader, some scholars believe that charisma alone is not enough to create a successful leader. Charismatic leadership is associated with the following weaknesses. First, the vision shared between the followers and their leader often creates an enormous energy which the leader can use in a destructive manner.

As the leader becomes more confident, his chances of abusing power become very high. Due to their exceptional communication skills and charisma, charismatic leaders are often followed without any resistance.

However, failure to check the leader’s power through opposing views gives room for corruption. An effective organization should facilitate competition for power. Such competition facilitates ideation and proposal of better values. Without competition for power, the leader remains uncontrolled and can misuse his power.

Second, over dependence on the charismatic leader prevents the development of a capable successor. Selecting a successor of a charismatic leader is often difficult since the leader is highly tied to the organization’s identity. Even though some scholars believe that charisma can be acquired through practice, the practicing process is often tedious and the leader might not succeed in acquiring charismatic skills.

This makes it difficult to replace a charismatic leader even if a lot of resources are invested in succession planning. Failure to develop or identify a successor in time, eventually creates a leadership crisis in the organization. Finally, charismatic leaders normally deny the existence of problems or failure. Given their high level of confidence and self-assurance, charismatic leaders might fail to admit their failures.

Additionally, charismatic leaders can fail to learn from their mistakes. This is because they are hardly challenged or opposed by their followers. Since the followers believe that the leader is always right, they might fail to identify the leader’s mistakes.

Failure to correct the leader’s mistakes can lead to poor performance. Additionally, chances of organizational learning will be reduced if the followers fail to objectively assess the decisions and strategies adopted by the leader.

Inspirational Leadership

Inspirational leadership is based on the power of the leader to inspire his subordinates to follow him. A person who intends to become an inspirational leader must have the ability to inspire others to achieve high performance and success. Some of the skills that an inspirational leader needs in order to succeed include the following. The leader must have a sense of purpose and passion in his work.

He must also be able to cultivate the same sense of purpose in his followers. An inspirational leader must have good listening and communication skills in order to develop positive relationships with his followers. These skills enable the leader to create the inspirational culture in the organization.

Instilling Inspiration

Inspirational leaders achieve their goal of inspiring others to reach great heights in the following ways. To begin with, an inspirational leader must be seen as a ‘real’ leader by his followers. This means that the leader must lead without having any selfish motives. Real leaders take leadership roles due to their passion for helping others. Inspirational leaders always uphold the spirit of good cheer even during difficult times.

They believe that a solution can be found for every problem. This instills confidence in their followers. Research shows that inspirational leaders tend to take “a little more than their share of the blame and a little less than their share of the credit”.

This means that inspirational leaders appreciate and motivate their follows through encouragements, as well as, rewards. They focus on making their followers feel important by challenging them and exciting them to attain goals. Individuals tend to perform better if they are appreciated and rewarded for their effort. For a leader to win the support of his followers, he must be committed and convinced about the goals to be achieved.

An inspirational leader must passionately pursue the mission and vision of his organization. Additionally, he must be able to encourage his followers to feel passionate about the organization’s vision and mission. This can be achieved if the followers are able to identify with the vision and mission of the organization.

Generally, communicating the organization’s broad objectives on a regular basis helps the followers to understand and identify with the organization’s vision. In order to inspire others, a leader must share meaning with his followers.

A shared meaning can be created if the leader listens to his followers and incorporates their ideas and thoughts in the vision and mission of the organization. Additionally, the followers’ ideas must be taken into account when formulating the goals and objectives of the organization.

Individuals become inspired if they feel included. Inclusion involves more than just listening and taking feedback from the followers. In order to achieve real inclusion, the followers must feel “intimately connected to the actions and processes that lead to the accomplishment of goals or decisions”.

The integrity of the leader is central to the process of inspiring followers. The followers will only identify with a leader who they trust. Finally, the inspirational leader should promise only what is within his means to give. This helps in boosting his trust and integrity.

Roles of the Inspirational Leader

The inspirational leader is considered a crusader who formulates an inspiring vision and creates strategic alignments to facilitate achievements of the vision. In this context, the leader should enable followers to align their personal goals to those of the organization. An inspirational leader creates a culture of consistent innovation in the organization.

In a business environment, such innovations involve fostering entrepreneurial creativity, as well as, experimentation. The inspirational leader is also entrusted with the role of empowering the followers. This is often achieved by coaching and training followers in order to boost their performance. Additionally, the followers’ should be included in decision making.

It is the role of the inspirational leader to build teams by promoting effective teamwork. They also build effective teams by leveraging diversity among the followers. Finally, the inspirational leader encourages the culture of risk taking in the organization. Most followers often fail to achieve their targets since they fear taking risks. Consequently, the leader should inspire his followers to take risks in order to succeed.

Characteristics of Inspirational Leaders

Inspirational leaders are associated with certain characteristics that differentiate them from other leaders. The following are the main characteristics of inspirational leaders. First, inspirational leaders have strong strategic focus. They are adept at ensuring that the organization uses its resources for projects or activities that create real value for all stakeholders.

Inspirational leaders instill inspired standards rather than charisma in order to motivate their followers. They foster a culture of discipline that facilitates freedom and responsibility among the followers.

In the context of a business, an inspirational leader will hire self-disciplined individuals who are capable and willing to do their best to achieve the company’s objectives. Additionally, inspirational leaders always do what they are passionate at in order to achieve the objectives of their businesses.

Second, inspirational leaders are lateral thinkers. They are able to effectively draw on their experiences, as well as, outside their sectors or areas of expertise. Inspirational leaders focus on the bigger picture by taking a broader view rather than focusing only on the organizational norms.

Besides, inspirational leaders are risk takers. Thus, they tend to ‘bend the rules’ by taking calculated risks in order to achieve their goals and the objectives of the organization. Similarly, inspirational leaders normally allow their followers to ‘bend the rules’ to some extent. This is because the leaders recognize the fact that some amount of flexibility is needed to adapt to circumstance and to move forward.

Third, inspirational leaders have a clear vision of what the future of the organization should be. They also have excellent communication skills to convey their vision. Good communication skills enable inspirational leaders to convince their followers to support the vision and to identify what they can do to facilitate achievement of the vision.

By focusing on plain speaking rather than jargon, inspirational leaders enhance their followers’ understanding. Inspirational leaders normally involve their followers in the change process in order to succeed.

They give their followers the freedom, as well as, the support required to successfully complete a given task. They also find time to bond with their followers through informal and personal contacts. Such contacts motivate the followers to achieve their goals.

Fourth, inspirational leaders have the ability to stimulate ambition in the organization. They usually align their ego needs with the needs of the organization. Thus, by pursuing their personal goals, they eventually achieve the organization’s goals. Most inspirational leaders often sacrifice their personal gain for the benefit or gain of the organization.

Fifth, inspirational leaders are associated with personal principles that guide their actions. In particular, inspirational leaders are normally committed, courageous and demand high performance both from their followers and from themselves.

Additionally, they demonstrate their confidence in a quiet and understated manner. The uniqueness of inspirational leaders is illustrated by their strong set of values based on honesty, respect and openness.

Sixth, inspirational leaders tend to be reflective. They are distinguished from other leaders by their ability to show genuine humility without fear of showing occasional vulnerability. Inspirational leaders normally reflect on their abilities on a regular basis. Additionally, they always have a desire to learn new things that enhance their performance, hence their focus on humility.

Empirical studies reveal that great leaders are often quiet, reserved, as well as, self-effacing. They lead from the back by motivating and supporting their followers. They give their followers the freedom that promotes high performance.

Finally, inspirational leaders consider the attitudes of their followers to be very important in achieving the objectives of the organization. This is because they believe that salaries are only one aspect of job satisfaction. Thus, salaries must be accompanied by other factors in order to achieve high job satisfaction among followers. The other factors that promote job satisfaction include respect and prestige.

Employees who are highly satisfied with their jobs tend to be highly productive. Additionally, employees are more likely to unleash both process and product innovation if they are satisfied with their jobs.

Such innovations promote efficiency in the organization and satisfaction among the customers. Similarly, the performance of the followers is likely to be very high if they are appreciated. It is against this backdrop that most inspirational leaders focus on fulfilling the emotional needs of their followers.

Situations that Facilitates Inspirational Leadership

Inspirational leadership emerges in situations whereby, coercion through rules and commands, as well as, reward based motivation can not be achieved. Using coercion in an organization demands consistent investment in a bureaucratic system characterized with rules, process, as well as, an enforcement framework.

Motivation, on the other hand, is often expensive to implement if dollar-based performance targets are used to motivate employees. By using inspirational leadership, the employees will not just work in order to be paid but also to achieve something they consider to be inspiring. Thus, an inspirational leader will emerge if a person inspires others to achieve the objectives of the organization.

Strengths of Inspirational Leadership

It is apparent that employees are the most important assets of an organization. The organization is likely to flourish if it has the right people in the right jobs. However, getting the right people in the right jobs is not enough to enhance high performance.

Thus, the organization must find ways of ensuring that employees perform to their level best. This can be achieved through inspirational leadership. Hence, the strengths of inspirational leadership include the following.

First, inspirational leadership enables members of the organization to pursue significance. Various studies have revealed that employees “want to believe in what they do” in terms of the tasks and duties they are responsible for at the workplace.

In the contemporary labor market, employees are more interested in a career or a calling rather than just the salaries. If employees are proud of their jobs and find meaning in their jobs, they will develop inherent passion. Consequently, they will achieve success as they strive to develop their careers.

Second, inspirational leadership enables people to lead through culture. In particular, it facilitates the development of the culture of inspiration within an organization. Culture determines the choices, decisions, as well as, the operations of the organization.

Culture can not be controlled or developed through rules and regulations. It has to be developed through inspirations that enable members of the organization to identify with the norms and vision of the organization.

Third, inspirational leadership extends trust in the organization. The modern business environment is characterized with intense competition. Companies that intend to overcome competition must take some form of a risk. The ability to take such risks is often predicted on trust; hence the importance of inspirational leadership becomes apparent.

Inspirational leaders facilitate the development of trust among their followers. This in turn promotes engagement, loyalty, as well as, risk taking. Fourth, inspirational leadership promotes transparency within an organization. This is because inspirational leaders often act on the basis of sustainable values. Thus, they have nothing to hide, and this promotes transparency.

Transparency not only helps the organization to avoid losses, but also improves the image of the organization. Finally, inspirational leadership promotes business connection and collaboration.

Globalization has necessitated connection, as well as, collaboration across stakeholders, borders and even operations. Such connections can only be achieved through two-way communication in which all stakeholders are involved in the decision making process. This can be achieved through effective inspirational leadership.

Weaknesses of Inspirational Leadership

Inspirational leadership has the following weaknesses. Inspirational leadership does not take into account situational dynamics. It assumes that followers are interested in teamwork in order to achieve a common goal. Hence, it is not effective in circumstances where followers lack the skills and experience required to complete a given task. The outcomes of inspirational leadership are often achieved after a long time.

This is because, inspirational leaders must invest a lot of time and effort to build trust and convince the followers to identify with a shared vision. Thus, organizations that are interested in achieving instant results are not likely to succeed by using inspirational leadership. Inspirational leaders assume that their followers have visions or ideas that should be fused to form the overall vision.

However, followers might not necessarily have visions that can be pursued by the organization. In some cases, bad ideas or inappropriate visions might be proposed. Such ideas can conceal the good ones, thereby leading to failure in the organization.

Inspirational leadership depends on the values and personality of the individual entrusted with the leadership role. Thus, inspirational leadership might not be used by individuals who lack inspirational, as well as, excellent communication skills. Inspirational leadership also depends on one leader who motivates others and drives change in the organization.

While other leadership skills such as delegation can be learned, inspirational skills are never learned in a school environment. Thus, the leader has to practice over a period of time in order to acquire such skills.

However, acquiring inspirational leadership skills through practice is not guaranteed and this leads to dependence on the few leaders who are naturally inspirational. Such dependence can lead to a leadership crisis if the leader can not be easily replaced. Finally, inspirational leadership can be abused since the leader has great control over the followers.

Discussion of the Similarities

The above discussion has highlighted the distinctive features of both inspirational and charismatic leadership. From these features we can identify the similarities between the two leadership styles. Thus, the similarities between inspirational and charismatic leadership include the following. First, both inspirational and charismatic leadership focus on the pursuit of a shared vision.

In both leadership styles, the leaders formulate a vision that defines the future of the organization. The leaders use their interpersonal skills to influence their followers to support the vision. The leaders are considered to be successful if the followers are able to identify with the former’s beliefs and ideas.

Second, both inspirational and charismatic leadership depend on the personality of the individual or the leader. The success of inspirational and charismatic leaders depends on their interpersonal skills and ability to build relationships with their followers. Both leaders have excellent communication and rhetorical skills that enable them to convince their followers to support their visions.

They also use these skills to establish strong relationships and teamwork in their groups. Additionally, personal attributes such as character, ethics and values determine the success of the leader in both leadership styles.

These attributes form the personal principles that guide the leader’s actions and relationship with the followers. Charismatic and inspirational leaders are distinguished by their personal principles rather than general leadership skills. Inspirational and charismatic leaders can only be trusted by their followers if their integrity is unquestionable.

Third, inspirational and charismatic leaders focus on social power rather than formal authority and coercion. The aim of the leaders is to win the support of their followers. Once the followers trust the leader and identify with his vision, the leader gains the power to lead their followers. The leaders wield expert power since they have the skills and knowledge that is required to lead the organization and to solve problems.

The leaders also wield referent power since they are seen by followers as mentors who should be emulated in the organization. Inspiration and charisma enhances sustainable and effective leadership by enabling the followers and leaders to establish long term relationships.

The commitment that results from such long term relationships enables leaders to control or influence their followers without necessarily using financial rewards. Thus, both inspirational and charismatic leadership can be used to enhance job satisfaction in situations whereby financial rewards can not be used.

Fourth, both charismatic and inspirational leaders have great concern for their followers. They have good listening skills which enable them to understand the concerns and expectations of their followers. They are able to read the moods of their followers both at personal and group level. The aim of both inspirational and charismatic leaders is to enable their followers to achieve the highest possible results.

This in turn leads to achievement of the goals and objectives of the organization. Showing concern for followers is important in inspirational and charismatic leadership since it helps the leaders to win the trust of their followers. It is also a strategy for empowering the followers. This is because a leader can only empower his followers if he understands their concerns.

Fifth, inspirational and charismatic leadership are characterized with dependence on one leader who drives change in the organization. Thus, the success and the image of the organization, to a large extend, depend on the leader. The dependency on one leader, however, hinders development of potential successors.

In most cases, the leader can do away with potential successors or he can hire weak successors in his management team. Additionally, acquiring charismatic and inspirational skills is often very difficult. This makes it difficult to embark on succession planning through training and development.

Failure to develop a successor in time can lead to a leadership problem, especially, if the exit of the incumbent leader is abrupt. Thus, charisma and inspiration alone are not enough to ensure effective leadership.

Both old and current studies reveal that the enormous energy created by both inspirational and charismatic leadership can be abused. This is because charismatic and inspirational leaders can take advantage of the trust of their followers to engage in undesirable behaviors such as corruption or mismanagement of the organization’s resources.

Sixth, inspirational and charismatic leadership are based on idealized inspiration. Both inspirational and charismatic leaders always display conviction. They emphasize trust among their followers in order to achieve a shared meaning. Most inspirational and charismatic leaders take stands on various issues, even though they also take into account the views of their followers.

The leaders also emphasize the significance of purpose and commitment in achieving the goals of the organization. Most inspirational and charismatic leaders take cognizance of the significance of ethical considerations in decisions. Thus, they encourage their followers to engage in socially ethical behaviors.

Generally, inspirational and charismatic leaders have the ability to generate pride, loyalty, as well as, confidence. Consequently, they are admired by their followers.

Finally, both inspirational and charismatic leaders are risk lovers. They are more likely to sacrifice self gain in order to achieve the goals of the organization. They prioritize the gains of the organization and the followers in order to demonstrate their commitment to success.

Discussion of the Differences

The differences between charismatic and inspirational leadership mainly exist in the leadership process. Thus, the differences between inspirational and charismatic leadership include the following. First, the leadership process used in charismatic leadership is substantially different from that used in inspirational leadership. In charismatic leadership, the leader is seen as the ‘head of the show’ since he is in charge of nearly everything.

The charismatic leader is responsible for articulating his vision. Additionally, he ensures commitment and support for his vision. An inspirational leader, on the other hand, allows his followers to give their input and influence the vision to be pursued in the organization. Thus, an inspirational leader shares power with his followers.

Additionally, followers of inspirational leaders normally participate actively in decision making and formulation of the vision and mission of the organization. An organization that is led by an inspirational leader is considered to be a ‘learning organization’.

This is because such organizations recognize the fact that leaders and followers have important aspects of the vision which must be put together in order to achieve a common goal. In a nutshell, an inspirational leader allows the followers to participate in the formulation of the vision, whereas a charismatic leader does not.

Second, charisma plays different roles in inspirational and charismatic leadership. Even though an inspirational leader is seen as the change agent in his organization, charisma is not their defining characteristic. Inspirational leaders do not focus on achieving status through charisma. Thus, charisma is not the main trait for describing inspirational leaders.

In the context of inspiration, inspirational leaders instill inspired standards rather than charisma. They use inspired standards to motivate their followers to achieve high performance. Charismatic leaders, on the other hand, inspire their followers through charisma. They mainly depend on charisma to motivate their followers and drive change in their organizations. Thus, charisma is the main trait that describes charismatic leaders.

Third, inspirational and charismatic leaders perceive the self differently. This means that their understanding of the self is based on different considerations. As stated earlier, the inspirational leader does not use charisma to influence his or her followers.

Thus, elevation of the self is not the main focus of an inspirational leader. Research reveals that most inspirational leaders credit their followers with the success of the organization rather than taking all the glory. Additionally, they tend to be reserved and lead from the back by motivating followers to move on even during difficult situations. A charismatic leader, on the other hand, is seen as a hero in the organization.

They lead from the front by formulating a vision and influencing the followers to support the vision. As experts, charismatic leaders dominate the leadership process. Consequently, the success of the team or organization is associated with them. A charismatic leader always takes all the glory when the organization succeeds.

Fourth, in charismatic leadership, the leader is “responsible for ‘buy in’ of followers for the vision that he or she has established”. This implies that the leadership process in charismatic leadership is leader focused. Thus, it is the duty of the leader to continue to develop a vision that describes the future of the organization and to inspire ideation on behalf of the followers.

The inspirational leader, on the other hand, believes or assumes that the followers have a vision. Thus, followers only need a context that can enable them to share their visions with the leader.

Additionally, the followers’ participation in the formulation of the vision is respected by all stakeholders. Thus, in charismatic leadership, the leader is viewed as a hero change agent. However, in inspirational leadership, the leader is seen as a servant change agent.

Fifth, in inspirational leadership, the process of empowerment is reciprocal. This means that the leaders empower the followers and vice versa. The leader empowers the followers by giving them the freedom and guidance that is needed to achieve their targets. Additionally, the followers are given a chance to participate in decision-making. In charismatic leadership, the process of empowerment is unidirectional.

In this case, the leader is responsible for empowering their followers. This involves giving the followers the support they need in order to achieve their goals.

Finally, inspirational leaders are comfortable in leading the followers at any level in the organization. Hence, they can hold any position. Charismatic leaders, on the other hand, are associated with top positions in the organization. Thus, they are more comfortable in leading others from top positions in the organization.


The aim of this paper was to discuss the similarities and differences of inspirational and charismatic leadership. Leadership is “the process through which a person influences others to achieve a particular goal”. In order to influence others, the leader must use some leadership style such as charismatic or inspirational leadership.

In charismatic leadership, the leader uses his communication skills and charisma to emotionally connect with his followers. They use charisma to inspire and motivate the followers to achieve both personal and organizational goals. In inspirational leadership, the leader uses inspired standards to motivate his followers and to drive change in the organization.

The main similarities between inspirational and charismatic leadership include the following. Both leadership styles focus on social power rather than coercion to influence their followers. This power is achieved through inspiration. Inspirational and charismatic leaders have visions that they passionately pursue in their organization.

Additionally, they strive to instill the same passion in the organization. Inspirational and charismatic leaders depend on their excellent communication skills and personal attributes such as values to convince or win the support of their followers. The main differences between inspirational and charismatic leadership include the following.

Charismatic leaders mainly depend on charisma to inspire their followers, whereas, inspirational leaders use inspired standards to influence others. Charismatic leaders formulate their visions and inspire their followers to believe in and support such visions. Inspirational leaders, on the other hand, allow their followers to participate in the formulation of the vision.

Unlike charismatic leadership, inspirational leadership is characterized with power sharing between the followers and the leader. In a nutshell, charismatic leadership must involve inspiration and charisma. However, in inspirational leadership, the leader does not have to posses charismatic skills in order to succeed.

Works Cited

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Jayakody, John. “Charismatic Leadership in Sri-Lanka Business Organizations.” Journal of Management Development 27.5 (2008): 480-498. Print.

McNichol, Elaire, Susan Haner and Lynne Wigan. Leadership and Management. New York: Cengage Learning, 2007. Print.

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Paulsen, Neil, Drama Maldonaldo and Victor Callan. “Charismatic Leadership, Change and Innovation in an R&D Organization.” Journal of Organizational Change Management 22.5 (2009): 511-523. Print.

Risgro, Ronald and Rebecca Richard. “The Emotional and Social Intelligences of Effective Leadership: An Emotional and Social Skill Approach.” Journal of Management Psychology 23.2 (2008): 169-185. Print.

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Zenger, John, Joe Follema and Scott Edinger. The Inspiring Leader. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2009. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Charismatic vs. Inspirational Leadership." June 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/charismatic-vs-inspirational-leadership/.


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